Thanksgiving in Mumbai: Aftermath – Lufthansa Reaches Out to Apologize for Service Lapses

Two weeks ago I posted about the worst first class flight I’ve ever experienced. It was Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Mumbai, and it was really unlike anything I’d ever experienced. Service-wise I hadn’t seen anything like it in coach even. I was totally flummoxed, and though folks said I should have spoken to the purser about the experience inflight and asked to be served by someone else, in the moment it was so challenging that I just wanted the flight to be over and it didn’t seem like anything could possibly be done other than wait for our arrival in India.

Well, shortly after I posted a woman working for Lufthansa posted in the comments. See, her job used to include participating in the Flyertalk forums (as “LHRelate”) and I had friended her on facebook. Since I publish the blog to my facebook page, she saw what I had written and .. on a Sunday morning.. was on the case.

I was contacted by senior folks at Lufthansa on Monday morning. They asked me for a few details beyond what I published on the blog, let me know that it would take several days to get back to me while they investigated with various departments, but that they took my experience seriously and they would be back with me.

I promised in an update on my post about the flight that I’d update folks here on the resolution, so I thought I’d share Lufthansa’s response.

It took about a week but I got a note this past Wednesday asking for a time we might speak. I sent them my cell phone number and they called immediately.

They started out with an apology as expected. They let me know that they had sent my entire blog post to a couple of different departments, including to review with the flight attendant in question.

A few details were shared with me that I won’t repeat here, but they seemed to take my concerns seriously. The man who called me said that in his years at Lufthansa he could count on one hand the number of complaints that had reached them about first class service. I understand — Lufthansa’s seats and video aren’t the best in first class (though they’re putting in new seats), but the service is at the very least overall very consistent. I wouldn’t expect many complaints about the service, and indeed my other two Lufthansa first class segments on the trip (and all of them on past trips) have always had perfectly fine service, ranging from exactly as one expects to quite good.

He did say that they wanted to compensate me for the experience, that the tickets were booked with US Airways miles and that he was limited in the number that he could offer of those, that I wasn’t much for Miles & More (though I suppose if I leave enough miles in my bmi account when it converts over that might no longer be the case), so compensating me in miles probably wouldn’t do enough. Besides, he rather guessed I had lots of US Airways miles (with a knowing laugh, he seemed well aware of the propensity for folks to buy US Airways miles or earn lots of them via promos and cash them in for Lufthansa first class).

So instead he suggested that I take my wife to a very nice dinner, and send him the bill.

It was a real gesture, one that would cost them actual money (as opposed to sending along a certificate, perhaps discount on future travel with Lufthansa or for duty free as I rather expected they’d do). And it meant a lot.

Lufthansa has certainly been paying attention to social media lately, I expect that noting my experience on a blog got more attention that it might otherwise but the egregious nature of the flight and the fact that it was in first class no doubt warranted the attention as well.

And I for one do feel like they went to lengths to demonstrate they were concerned about the service lapse, were addressing it internally, and were serious about ‘making it up to me.’

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary ┬╗

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  1. I had absolutely no doubts that they would address your situation and take it very seriously due to your “high profile” nature. I only hope that they address ALL similar complaints in as personal a manner. I’m not saying that they don’t or won’t, but I really doubt that they would have offered another traveler (i.e., a less notable blogger, FT board member, etc.) a dinner on them. That — I think — is unprecedented. I think that somebody else would have gotten the miles or credit voucher that you referred to. This doesn’t diminish their gesture, but rather makes me want to start my own blog! ­čśë

  2. @AS Obviously I can’t say how they’d treat someone else, I share everything here as transparently as I can and let folks judge. I do know Lufthansa takes social media as seriously as pretty much anyone these days, and that includes Delta, so I did speculate that having a blog (particular stature of which may be beside the point) might have helped. At least it got noticed. And that it was a complaint about service in first class, fairly detailed, made it stand out. I guess anyone else in a similar circumstance will have to report back to be able to figure out how Lufthansa handles it in their case. Regardless, I appreciated the gesture which I felt was pretty appropriate.

  3. I agree with A.S. It’s great to know that Lufthansa cares about their service and compensated you with a dinner on them. However, I’m pretty positive that normal FTers wouldn’t be treated the same way as you were.

  4. Good for you Gary! Your blog encourages the carriers to do better, so the dinner is well deserved. But did LH explain the reason for the service lapse and their internal corrective action to prevent its reoccurrence?

  5. Gary —

    I’m glad you got some satisfaction but I fear your experience is more to do with the publicity you can generate than Standard Operating Procedure for Lufthansa. My wife and I had a similarly appalling set of experiences with LH’s First Class service back in September, this time with their ground service at Venice and Frankfurt. After getting in touch with their customer service folks, I did receive written apologies, but I would have expected a phone call or some other more personal gesture. After an involuntary downgrade at Venice was “solved” via a cash payment, there was no indication that the more fundamental problems with the FRA ground team were ever investigated in any detail.

    I would have expected to have a phone call from a station manager or someone else with personal accountability for the failures, along with an explanation of why it happened and what they were doing to ensure no repetitive faults, but instead it was all handled via a third party who could only make assurances the right people would know what to do.

    Anyway hopefully you’ll help raise the bar overall, and be sure to choose somewhere really nice for dinner!

  6. @Carl Lufthansa offered a fairly detailed explanation of what they learned over the week between seeing my complaint and following up. They offered a pretty compelling narrative that this particular issue won’t reoccur.

  7. Gary certainly received a high level response from Lufthansa due to his blog. However, we will all benefit as he put Lufthansa and other airlines on notice to always offer great service as they never know who is sitting in the seat.

  8. Gary-

    The ‘squeaky wheel’ has now been replaced by he ‘squeaky blog’. I share the other views here, that you should feel gratified that LH was so responsive, but that the overall gesture felt more like an exercise in damage control than problem resolution.

    I would be more impressed about LH telling you what tangible failsafes they will put in place to preempt future bad service scenarios than than the meal spiff.

    I have always rejected airline’ compensation’ and instead asked them to focus on preventative measures for the future.

  9. Really? You hadn’t seen anything like it in coach? A lot of your complaints were extremely minor and way overblown. I hope you never have a bad day at work.
    And it seemed like overkill that you asked if you should send a letter to LH when you’d already caused PR damage to the airline with your blog post.

  10. Not sure what happened to my post. I said earlier: why not just share the specifics instead of shrowding everything in secrecy?

  11. Very cool….would only happen in first class though…too bad you didn’t mention F class food and that they are trying too hard! Happy New Year!

  12. @Ann: So put yourself in Gary’s shoes… what do you do? Suck it up and hope the FA on your next supremely expensive flight wakes up on the right side of the bed?

  13. Completely different response from flyertalk poster londonienne, who as I recall was thrown under the bus for posting about her poor experience when checking in at CDG. Having a widely read travel blog makes all the difference; I would expect nothing from Lufthansa if it were one of the rest of us.

  14. @ Robb – what difference does it make whether the ticket was revenue or award based? The fact is if you are in First Class you should get the expected level of service and if you do not, you have the right to lodge a complaint. I would like to know what you would do if you used 150,000 miles (that for some of us come from actual flying) and then being treated inappropriately relative to the expected level of service.

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